Peter Parker knows a little something about juggling the responsibilities of a personal life and the life of a super-powered crime fighter. It’s been that way since he was transformed into Marvel Comics' flagship hero, Spider-Man, as a teenager. Lately though, Peter Parker has been working over time to meet an increased amount of obligations. He's a member of multiple super teams, and still tries to maintain a presence as a solo hero in New York City. While out of costume, he's putting in hours at his job at Horizon Labs and trying to preserve his relationships with family and friends.
On top of that, there are the complications that mainly come in the form of super villains and anti-heroes with bad attitudes. In the current two-part arc of "Amazing Spider-Man," the title character is being menaced by Mister Negative, Anti-Venom and a mysterious new female incarnation of his old foe, the Wraith. All the while, another old Spidey nemesis, the Jackal, is wrapping up an experiment that sets the stage for July's Spider-Man event, "Spider-Island." CBR News spoke with writer Dan Slott about his current and upcoming plans for "Amazing Spider-Man."
CBR News: Dan, you've been keeping Spidey awfully busy the past few months. Most recently he completed a time and space hopping adventure with his new teammates in the Future Foundation. That adventure put him into conflict with his old foes the Sinister Six, and it seems like the Six and their leader, Doctor Octopus, have been keeping just as busy as their arch-enemy. In recent months, they've also caused trouble for Iron Man and the students and teachers of "Avengers Academy." Is Otto Octavius in the process of setting his latest master plan into motion?
Dan Slott: YES! When you think about it, in a very short amount of time in the pages of "Amazing Spider-Man," "Invincible Iron Man," and "Avengers Academy," Doc Ock has mentally bested Reed Richards, Tony Stark and Hank Pym; the three founding members of the Marvel genius society. So readers may be wondering, "What he's doing?" We can't reveal that now, but whatever he's doing, he seems to be succeeding!
So Doc Ock's master plan seems to be succeeding, but in "Amazing Spider-Man" #663, in stores now, you kicked off a two-part story that shows Peter's master plan to be the best that he can be is in trouble. When you open the issue it appears Spidey is starting feel the pressure of burning the candle at both ends. Is that fair to say?
Yes. He's on two Avengers teams. He's a member of the Future Foundation. And on top of that, since the death of Marla Jameson, he's been dedicating himself to becoming the best Spider-Man he can possibly be. At the same time, he's working all hours, whenever he can, at Horizon Labs and trying to be the best Peter Parker that he can be as well. So he really is pushing himself in a LOT of different directions at once. Something’s gotta break!
In this current two-part story, fatigue isn't Spidey's only foe. It also look like he's dealing with the reemergence of Anti-Venom and Chinatown's super powered crime lord, Mister Negative, as well as the debut of a new female incarnation of the Wraith. What made you want reestablish the Wraith as part of Spider-Man's Rogues Gallery?
I’m a "Marvel Team-Up" junkie. "MTU," "Amazing Spider-Man," and "Marvel Two-In-One" were the three Marvel books I followed as a kid. I liked getting Spidey and a hero and the Thing and a hero. I loved the fact that here you had Jean DeWolff's brother who supposedly passed away and came back as the Wraith. Well, years ago, Jean has passed away and now it looks like-HEY! As a kid I always wondered why we never saw her show up as a Wraith as well.
In #663 the new female Wraith unmasks and she appears to be slain police officer, Jean DeWolff. Now we don't know exactly why that is and if she really is indeed DeWolff. It seems that #663-664 is sort of a ghost story because both Spider-Man and Anti-Venom are haunted by their past connections to Jean.
That is one way of looking at it. Both characters do have connections to Jean DeWolff. One of Eddie Brock's original sins was that he pegged the wrong person as her killer. So he's very invested in the memory and legacy of Jean DeWolff.
Spider-Man's girlfriend, police scientist Carlie Cooper, also seems interested in the whereabouts and activities of the new Wraith. Is this simply because Mysterio was going to use Jean's identity in his scheme involving dead cops and criminals that Spidey and Carlie busted up last year? Or is there something else motivating her?
Yes. She's also involved though because the Wraith created a number of "super" crime scenes, and that’s her wheelhouse. We’ve already seen her investigating some of them in recent "ASM" issues.
The Wraith isn't the only villain that links Spidey's supporting cast to this story. It looks like Peter's Aunt May and her husband J. Jonah Jameson, Sr. will play roles because of May's connection Mister Negative's secret identity, philanthropist Martin Li.
Awhile back Mister Negative used his corrupting powers to turn Aunt May into what we affectionately dubbed, "Anti-May." She snapped back from it though, but she really hasn't been back to the F.E.A.S.T. Center (Mr. Negative's secret headquarters) until this issue. This is the first time she's really dealt with Martin Li publicly since she was turned by Mr. Negative, and as readers of "Spidey" #663 saw, something bad has happened.
"Amazing Spider-Man" #664, in stores now, is the conclusion to this story. Is it also the conclusion to the mystery of the new Wraith?
You'll have to read issue #664 to find out. I will say this though; there will be status quo changes to both Anti-Venom and Mister Negative before the story is over.
You're going to have to wait. I'm not going to blow any of Nick Spencer's secrets. What I like is that you're seeing more of Mister Negative in the Marvel U. We've seen him over in "Secret Avengers" and he made an appearance in "X-Men," so he's making some waves and expanding his criminal empire.
Both Eddie Brock and Flash Thompson, the current Venom, will be part of "Spider-Island." Both characters play huge roles in the story.
"Amazing Spider-Man" #663-664 is your first collaboration with artist Giuseppe Camuncoli. What was it like to work with him? Will we see more of his art in upcoming issues of the series?
He's wonderful. Working with Camo is awesome and having him inked by Klaus Janson is extra special. Klaus and I haven't worked together since "ASM" #600, and I LOVE his inks. And working with Camo is just fantastic. He is so good.
I'll be working with Camo again soon too! Christos Gage and I have co-written the Hobgoblin lead feature for the "Spider-Island: Deadly Foes of Spider-Man" one-shot and he'll be drawing it.
"Amazing Spider-Man" #665 hits stores on July 8. It's a done in one issue, but we understand it's very important to the larger story you're telling, correct?
This is a Spider-Man story I've been wanting to tell for a long while. It's one of my favorite done-in-one Spidey's I've ever told. It really gets to the core of Spider-Man's character. It has a major turning point for members of the cast and it looks all the way back to -- not an unseen moment of "Amazing Fantasy" #15 -- but a logical moment of Spider-Man’s origin story. It's a moment that we’ve never dared look at. One of Peter Parker's original sins comes back to haunt him.
Ryan Stegman is drawing that story. He did an incredible job! I can't wait to work with him again. I think this is probably the best work he's ever done. I really liked what he was doing on "She-Hulks," and on this issue, he really cranked everything to eleven! It’s a sweet looking comic!
"Amazing" #665 is also the end of the "Infested" shorts. In these two to three-page tales that set the stage for "Spider-Island," readers have seen the results of the Jackal's experiment to turn New York into a city of people with powers similar to Spider-Man. What's it been like writing the "Infested" shorts?
It's been weird. Sometimes you get things where it's almost like a little EC horror story. And other times things will be completely different, like in our Shang-Chi three pager, with gorgeous Max Fiumara art. You get this amazing sequence of Spidey and Shang-Chi performing all these perfectly executed martial arts manuevers.
The "Infested" shorts have all been gorgeous looking, and when we hit the last one it becomes a full eight page story. Something very important happens that will change the status quo for a long standing character in the Spider-Man cast. So even though it's an eight page back-up story, something crucial happens in it. You can't miss #665! Big things happen in the main story and there is an important development in the last "Infested" short on top of all of that.
The Jackal has figured prominently in all of the "Infested" shorts. How has it been writing the character?
It's really fun for me to write the Jackal because we're getting back to a key point of his character, which is that he's a college science teacher. He's a guy trapped in academia who really wants to be a super scientist and is now a super villain instead. Also on some level he's that one teacher you really couldn't stand. Now he's one of your arch-enemies. Isn't that horrible? Imagine your worst teacher in college. They make your life hell, but then you graduate! You got out, and now they're still affecting you in different and worse ways [Laughs]. There is a flip side though. When you face off with them you do get to punch them. So that's a good thing [Laughs].
What's your take on the Jackal's motivation? If our research is correct, his vendetta with Spider-Man originally came about because of his obsession with Gwen Stacy.
That seems to be the spark, but then if you look at the Jackal and Spidey’s long history that kind of goes away doesn't it? To see more about that you're going to have to read Fred Van Lente's story, which is the second feature long story in "Deadly Foes of Spider-Man." A lot of the "Infested" shorts features the Jackal, so you'll see everything that leads him up to "Spider-Island." There are some pretty big revelations in that story.
The Jackal's appearances in "Infested" and on the covers of upcoming issues of "Amazing Spider-Man" have many readers assuming that he's the main villain of "Spider-Island." Based on what we've read and seen so far, is it safe to make that assumption?
It's not safe to make any assumptions about "Amazing Spider-Man." As we started showing the covers to "Spider-Island" and teasing things with "Infested" I remember seeing people on message boards going, "Now they've given away who the main bad guy is!" Maybe we didn't though... Or... Maybe we did.
"Spider-Island" kicks off July 27 with the release of "Amazing Spider-Man" #666, a special prelude issue. How does it feel to be on the eve of what looks to be one of your biggest Spidey stories ever?
It's very daunting to me. This is the biggest project I've worked on in my entire career. I've done some six part stories before like "Arkham Asylum: Living Hell," and "New Ways to Die." This is really it though. This is six issues of "Amazing Spider-Man" all coming out within three months with an oversized prelude issue before it that sets everything into motion and an epilogue issue after it that deals with all the fallout. Plus there's one issue with the Hobgoblin that's one of the tie-ins. So I'm doing like eight and a half books in one big giant colossal story, which really, when you get down to the heart of it, this is the Spidey summer blockbuster. It's a big, all-out adventure.
Since "Spider-Island" is an event story with tie-ins, are you and the Spidey editors pretty busy reviewing each of the tie-ins to make sure everything flows together?
Yep. I have e-mail chains with people. I'm reading scripts, and I'm writing up stuff so everyone understands how it all comes together. It's quite big. Also, you want to keep your eye on the ball and make sure that each project, mini-series, and side story can also stand on its own and be its own thing. It's the same with "Spider-Island." If you just want to read "Spider-Island," you can.
I talked awhile with ["Venom" writer] Rick Remender and we worked out a whole lot of stuff with Venom and when you look at the path that Venom goes through in "Spider-Island" it's really cool. You could be reading the "Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu" mini with Shang-Chi, or the "Cloak & Dagger," and "Spider-Girl" minis. You decide your level of commitment to "Spider-Island." As you jump more and more in, the other stories flesh stuff out. Though everything really can stand on its own.
Sounds like a lot of work. We imagine it's fun work though, since you like to collaborate with others?
It's a lot of fun seeing all these different people's ideas come in. It's exciting seeing how they're going to play with the elements of "Spider-Island" and coordinating things so it all flows together and is one big tapestry. It's neat, but on another level it's also nice that we're doing things on this compact scale. This isn't line-wide. I look at the stuff the other guys are doing right now and it's like, "Wow. That's giant." I'm happy to be over here in this manageable realm where I don't go insane [Laughs].
So with "Spider-Island" readers are getting a story with the scope and scale of a big event, but told on a manageable level?
We're not joking about giving you the scale. When people see Humberto Ramos drawing an entire city infested with spider-powered people and all the heroes of New York rising up to deal with the challenge, that's REALLY BIG! These are jam packed pages with zillions of characters. I think it's going to be a blast!
I remember growing up and reading comics and you'd have a really big story and it would just be in one book. The original "Kree-Skrull War" was just in "Avengers." The climax of Walt Simonson's Surtur saga was just in "Thor." So when you read "Spider-Island" it really is this giant scope of an event, but told within these books.
What else can you tell us about the future of "Amazing Spider-Man?"
Everything about the "Big Time" run has been about big changes, and big stakes! And with Spider-Island -- that all goes CITY-WIDE! This is gonna be HUGE!